Rajya Sabha returns Finance Bill with 5 amendments

Krishnanand Tripathi
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha on 29 March 2017.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha on 29 March 2017.

In a repeat of confrontation between the government and the opposition over the key bills, Rajya Sabha Wednesday made five amendments in the Finance Bill, 2017 passed by the Lok Sabha and returned it to the lower house for its consideration. The debate on the bill also saw Trinamool Congress members walking out in the protest as the government wasn’t willing to concede the changes proposed by the party.

Finance Bill 2017, being a money bill, technically doesn’t require sanction of the upper house to take effect.

However, passage of as many as five amendments in the Rajya Sabha reflect the widening gap between the ruling bloc and the opposition in the upper house where ruling NDA doesn’t enjoy majority. Opposition has blamed the government of pushing through key legislations as money bills to by-pass the scrutiny by the upper house.

Of the total five amendments, three were moved and Congress member Digvijay Singh, one each by CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and Congress MP T Subbirami Reddy who sought divisions. Motions moved by the opposition party defeated the government’s actual proposals by an average of margin of more than 30 votes.

Opposition members blamed the government disparate subjects that were considered part of electoral reform or dealt with the appointments in and mergers of regulators were included in the finance bill 2017 by the government.

Congress member Kapil Sibal criticised the government for giving vast powers to income tax authorities to carry out search and seizures and targeting the charitable organisations and NGOs.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram sought to know about the provisions to protect data and information privacy issues. Chidambaram said if the systems of Pentagon, United States Defence Department, can be hacked then linking Aadhaar data with bank accounts and income tax returns was a fraught with risks.

However, finance minister Arun Jaitley responded by saying that Pentagon’s systems were hacked even in absence of Aadhaar like data used by the US government. He said that the threat of potential risk to a technology shouldn’t be a reason for not using the available technologies.